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Bite Me! Jigheads

By Louie Stout

If the weather cooperates, Lake Michigan perch fishing should be good this year.

Some big jumbos are already being caught by anglers fishing deep around Burns Ditch and Michigan City, said Lake Michigan Fisheries Biologist Ben Dickinson.

And that’s not the only good news. Dickinson’s crew spent last week running nets in 30 to 45 feet of water and turned up a record number of perch.

Last week’s catch was twice the number his crew captured last year, which coincidentally, was a record catch at that time.

“Most of the fish we say last week were 8 to 9 inches and males and they were ripe, so the spawn is in full swing,” he said Tuesday. “However, the females, which get bigger, are deeper than that right now.”

The adult fish likely represent a strong 2015 and 2016 year class.

“We haven’t aged some of the fish yet, but those were good year classes and I suspect we got lucky with the timing of the survey,” Dickinson said. “The water warmed up significantly in a short period of time and triggered the spawn. The surface temperature on the lake went from 50 to 60 degrees over about a four-day period. That’s rare on Lake Michigan.”

With that good news comes some not-so-good news. Last fall’s survey of young of the year didn’t turn up many new perch.

“Perch have been either boom or bust in recent years,” Dickinson said. “It’s hard to say with certainty as to why some may have not survived but a lot has to do with the timing of the hatching of the fry.”

He explained that young perch have to get on a plankton diet within a few days of hatching, but if there isn’t a good plankton bloom, they don’t survive. And of course, there is some predation.

In the meantime, enjoy the year classes that are out there.